You Should Still Be Using Webquests

Webquests are inquiry-oriented units or lessons. They were new about ten years ago, but they should still be a part of your teaching repertoire. Students work independently or in groups to break down a task, use and evaluate resources online and create a work product.  It is easy to make them fun and engaging activities, and the allowance for individual interest and exploration can be really motivating for many learners.

The key to an effective webquest is preparation. Since these can be pretty detailed processes, it makes sense to have more than one in an academic year. For your first, you will highly scaffold the process - include mini-lessons on features, complete parts of the quests together, review and analyze examples and non-examples of expectations, discuss templates and rubrics. By the time your students are completing a second or third, formatted similarly but on different topics, they will be more independent in the process and can explore their topic more deeply.

To make the most of this process, here are a few tips.

1) Lay out the process in advance with an introduction

Spend time introducing the entire webquest so students know the goals and expectations. Determine the length of your webquest and try to break it into lessons, steps or checkpoints before you share the process with the students.  You should be able to lay out the entire process during your introduction, and each component should take you one step closer to the final product.  

2) Make sure your final step is summative and reflective

The goal of a webquest isn't to answer prompts.  Encourage self-reflection, evaluation on process or application of information to other topics studied. There may be some direct responses to pieces of the webquest, but the overall result should be in the top tier of Bloom's Taxonomy: Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.

3) Select the resources and present them as part of the process

It's important for you to select the resources to be reviewed by the students.  Webquests are not independent research papers. You can directly link students to specific sites for certain components of the webquest ("For the answers to #1-3, visit this site . . . ") or you can give students a larger body of work and jigsaw it so different students are working to find different components of the same source. 

4) Choose a wide variety of resources

You don't have to send students to read articles. You can do so much with video and audio, and mix up primary and secondary resources. Finding another class' work on the same topic can also be helpful and interesting for your students. Allow students to engage in and interact with the sources they are selecting and be sure to appeal to all modalities and types of learners. 

5) Insert your usual classroom procedures into the process

A webquest is ultimately an assignment, and if you have specific expectations for your classwork, make sure they are present in this process. If you value peer review, incorporate a step that requires students to evaluate each other's work.  If your students use a specific format for citing resources, make sure there's a place for students to include these citations. For teachers who rely on online classrooms or digital assignment books, have turn ins and checkpoints be part of your class wiki or wall. Make these usual and consistent classroom features a part of the process to make the project more familiar and reinforce those skills as well.

6) Formalize the process, and reuse it

If you are going to put the work into a webquest, which you should because it is definitely worth it, try to find a format and structure that you like. It will help the students to become familiar with the process and it will help you to be able to replace sites, topics or expectations into consistent rubrics and assignments.

For more information on webquests, this link is a decade old, but a great start!

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I've played Jeopardy on PowerPoint before, and pretty haphazardly thrown a board together right before a unit, and it's been more than functional. Making one takes time, and if you're going to invest in putting one together, it make sense to make a template to use over and over again.  There are three things you can do to make your game work well and look awesome.

Tip #1 - Find the Perfect Typeface 

I ran across an article on typography that focused on the five typefaces used throughout the game.  The article said the actual lettering used was probably derived from standard typeface, but they gave some pretty great matches.

The clues are presented in ITC Korinna, all caps, white coloring, with a shadow. I downloaded this font and it was perfect. The dollar amounts and the categories are variations on Swiss 911. I wasn't able to master exact doubles, but what I did was close enough. The Jeopardy logo is URW Annual and it is combined with the typeface Square 271 when "double" appears in Double Jeopardy. Square 271 is used in the Daily Double screen shot. Video and Audio Daily Doubles use Coffee Service, just for the words "video" and "audio."

The article, on Fonts in Use, will link you where you can download these typefaces. Be prepared to be strong, because if you visit the site, you may go lost on their awesome blog. (FYI: If you're working on advertisement, propaganda, modernism, media, style and format, nearly anything that requires the visual medium with sentiment and idea, this site makes a great resource.)

If you don't want to seek out the fonts, you can always check out this Jeopardy Clue Generator. Visit the site, type your clue (in the form of a statement). The generator will automatically capitalize every letter and give you a neat clip you can save.

You can also take a screen shot, and if you'd like shave off the link to the generator. I left the watermark in the bottom left hand corner because this is on a blog.  

Tip #2 - Use the Right Color 
When you get to your PowerPoint, you want to make sure that your clues match the background.  That is a very specific and famous shade of blue. You can change the background color of all of the slide by changing the background color on the slides under the Format Background menu. When selecting the color, choose "More Colors" and a screen with two tabs will open. You will want the "Custom" menu, where you can enter the color values.  

There is a screen shot of what that will look like to the right. It will start with each value at 255, which makes the white default background. You will want to change each one so it reads red: 12, green: 53. blue: 203. If you select Apply to All, each slide will be that beautiful shade of Jeopardy blue. The dollar amounts will be written in a color with the values red: 214, green: 159, blue: 76 for that mustard shade of yellow.

Tip #3 - Link the Pages for a Click-Through Presentation

Whether you are using a SmartBoard or a projector, you will want to be able to click on the dollar amounts, go to the clue, possibly see the correct answer, but minimally return back to the board. There's a simple way to do this, but it just takes a moment to set up. Once you have it set up, though, you can save the file as a template for games in the future.

Make your first slide the board and type in the values of each clue on your grid. Create questions on the next slides, going down each category. Category 1 will be slides 2-6, Category 2 will be slides 7-11 and so on until you've finished all of your clues. Go back to your board slide and highlight the first dollar amount - Category 1, $200. You will select the option to hyperlink by right clicking, and your options screen will show up. Select "Place in the Document" on the left hand side, and highlighting Page 2. You will have to do this for all 30 clues, but making this template once is worth it.

When you've gone through this, go back to your first clue. Insert a text box and type the word "back" in small size. If you'd prefer to insert a shape, do this instead.  If you can see from the picture above, I use the arrow instead of the word back. Either way, highlight it, right click and go back to your hyperlinking options. Link that word or arrow to the first slide, the one with the board. Once you press ok, copy the item or word. You can now go through each slide, paste this same word or item onto the slide, and have all of your clues go back to the main board. 

If you've typed in numbers and hyperlinked them, they will appear in a purple color. You will know that the remaining clues are the still gold ones. Be careful though, because once you click on the dollar amount, it will be purple. I have gone around this by using arrows again in the bottom corners of my dollar amounts, but I have to manually cross out the dollar amount on my SmartBoard rendering of the board to track the use clues.  Another option is to just have a quick grid on the board in between the teams' scores, and asking the score keeping to just identify the used clues. 

And Beyond . . . 

I have seen some fabulous Jeopardy PowerPoints, some of which included applause and sad trombone sound clips for right and wrong answers, and click-through answer screens that show the right response. There are ways to slip a link to a Daily Double slide in between your board and a clue, and switching that around over a few games makes it pretty fun to play. You can embed photos, audio and video in all of your clues. It just goes on. With that inspiration, I hope you are ready to get started on a Jeopardy board today!

(Though, P.S. there are tons of boards online for sale or download - like mine - and people willing to make them for you - like me - which is a pretty neat option too!)

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